Anyone who meets Finian McGrath gets an immediate sense that he genuinely cares about people.
Shortly after that they perceive his strong sense of community spirit and appreciate he is a man of integrity. Anyone who knows his history knows how deeply ingrained in his personality these characteristics are.
Finian has a long history working for the disadvantaged. Both he and his wife Anne worked as schoolteachers in the north inner city, at a time when Dublin was suffering with problems of heroin, high unemployment and poverty. As a founder member of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (I.N.T.O.) Credit Union, Finian has made a significant contribution to the teaching community. Finian became involved with the Simon Community and campaigned against educational disadvantage, and was chairman of the Dublin branch of Down’s Syndrome Ireland. He was persuaded to enter politics after electioneering and working closely with former Dublin Central Independent TD Tony Gregory.
Finian with the late Tony Gregory TD
“I saw that Tony managed to squeeze 80 million out of the Government for social housing and education. I was working on the same problems he was working on and the more groups I got involved with in the north side, the more my work became politicised.”
The honesty of his personality, policies and philosophy resonated with the public. In 1999 he was elected to Dublin City Council and in 2002, he won a seat as an Independent TD in Dublin’s Northside, an area with a strong history of electing Independent TDs including Dr. Noel Browne and Seán Dublin Bay Loftus.
A real independent voice
Finian still gets asked every other day to join some political party, but he values his independence as it allows him to truly represent the people of Dublin Bay North without the burden of party politics and their petty point-scoring.
Finian has a long track record campaigning on issues relating to the elderly, children, health, education, human rights, the arts and the peace process. In particular, Finian has been a strong voice for people with disabilities, advocating for a change of mindset from a charity view of people to a human rights based approach.
A partnership government
This 32nd Dáil is like no other previously. The days of majority governments ramming legislation though the House are gone and this has created opportunity for Oireachtas members to contribute constructively. After the 2016 election, Finian entered tough, complicated negotiations and emerged with some of his ideas in a Programme for a Partnership Government with Fine Gael, Independent TDs and Fianna Fáil.
Finian sits at Cabinet as a minister for state in the departments of Health, Education, Justice and Social Protection, with special responsibilities for disability issues. He maintains that if 160,000 farmers warrant a minister for agriculture, then the 600,000 families affected by disability also deserve a voice at the table. He is determined to use his time in this position to secure much-needed funding for services, move forward the cause of disability rights, and ensure the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults.
“We’re going to do our damnedest. The bottom line is: it’s not just about having power, it’s about using that power to bring in change. I’m not in this job just to be a Minister, I want to see if I can do something as a minister. And the day I stop being able to do something positive as a minister is the day I’ll look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Right, there’s no point in being around here’. It has got to be about using the power to effect change.”
Finian is widowed and lives in Dublin Bay North. He has two daughters; Caoimhe and Clíodhna and is a proud grandfather. He is a supporter of St Vincent’s GAA and Shelbourne FC. His passion is music and loves to jam with his son-in-law Niall.